First of modern fleet arrives.
Blackpool Transport Services has taken delivery of its first Flexity 2 tram, one of a fleet of 16 that will transform the town's seaside tramway. Blackpool was the first to order this type of tram from builders Bombardier, so the handover was marked with a global launch in the town on September 8.
Each Flexity 2 tram features five articulated sections running on three bogies - one at each end and one in the middle. They are 100 per cent low floor and meet future accessibility regulations due to come into effect in 2019. They have a top speed of 44mph (70km/h) and seats for 74 passengers plus ample standing room.
The new trams are part of a £100 million investment that should be completed by spring 2012. The money has been spent on the new tram fleet, upgrading the entire 11-mile (18km) tramway, constructing new stops, and building a new depot at Starr Gate.
The rest of the fleet will be delivered over winter so that driver training can begin while the tramway is shut down. When it reopens around Easter time next year, there will be an all new timetable with the number of stops reduced from 64 to 37 to improve journey times and attract more local commuters from buses and cars.
The new depot at Starr Gate has been specially built to stable and service the Flexity 2 fleet. It is split into two parts, with a stabling side having seven roads capable of holding two trams each, and a maintenance side with three double-length roads. The maintenance side also features lifting jacks, raised walkways for working on the tram roofs, and a specialised wheel lathe.
The current fleet of heritage trams will be retained at the existing Rigby Road depot. They will be used to boost service frequencies where necessary, particularly along the core Pleasure Beach to North Pier section during the peak summer months.
Blackpool tramway has been running since 1885 and is the last of Britain's first generation tramways still in operation. It carries around four million passengers a year, mostly made up of tourists during the holiday seasons.